Tunnels & Trolls: House Rules II
This is a continuation of my earlier post, covering a set of house rules I'm constructing for a planned campaign of Tunnels and Trolls. One of the major load-bearing mechanics of T&T is the use of Saving Rolls. These are essentially attribute checks, and they are intended to be used for a wide array of circumstances. However, one thing that T&T hasn't usually done is give many "benchmarks," or samples of SRs and their difficulties for various tasks. That drives me nuts, because I think that a game should give the players and GMs some information on which to base an understanding of the world and what their characters can accomplish in it. So, much of what follows is going to be using the SR system and Attribute levels to give game-world meaning to the raw numbers on people's sheets.
Saving Roll Adjudication
Firstly, I am adopting a number of conventions from Burning Wheel.
Let It Ride: A PC only rolls once for any given task, and that roll represents their best effort to accomplish the task.
Stakes-Setting: When a player proposes a course of action, the GM tells them the SR Level, and the consequences for success and failure. This gives the player enough information to know whether or not they should pursue that course of action. It does mean that the DM needs to be fairly strategic in giving out information.
Yes and No: There's a whole lot of techniques called "Yes, and..." and "No, but..." and stuff, which are more like guidelines than rules, and are intended to help GMs give more information and options rather than accidentally stonewalling players without meaning to.
Importance: A new factor I am adding is something called Importance, which is intended to deal with the fact that not all SRs are created equal, and that you get XP for them. Color SRs have consequences for success or failure, and are for whatever reason worth rolling for, but don't have any major risk or reward attached to them. They are almost always used for non-adventuring activities. Stressful SRs are the meat and potatoes of adventuring. Use this SR if there's a real potential benefit for succeeding or a real risk of someone getting hurt if you fail, or both. Or if for whatever reason the GM thinks it's appropriate. Critical SRs are really bad news. An SR is critical if failing at it is likely to kill the character or seriously endanger the whole party, and especially if the PCs don't have any other substantially better options. The GM should reveal the Importance of the SR as part of stakes-setting.
Secondly, I am going to try to give the players a number of alternatives whenever possible. Let's say that there's a poison dart trap. A character steps on it. I might give them the following options to choose from: A level 2 Speed SR to duck or dodge just in time. A level 3 Luck SR for the dart trap to misfire. A Level 5 Dexterity SR to block, parry, or catch the dart. The player could pick any one, but only one, of these to attempt. If they failed, I might give them a Constitution SR to partially resist the poison, as well.
No Level Bonus: One thing that 7.5 added that I don't think is so great is the ability to add your level to an SR if you would otherwise have failed it. I just don't see the point. Raise your stats, people. That's why I'm handing out so much AP.
Speaking of XP: I intend to hand out a lot of it. PCs get the normal amount of Adventure Points from Color SRs. That is, they multiply their roll times the level of the SR. So, if you roll a nine on the dice on an SR2 to bake the best birthday cake ever, you get 18 AP. Yeehaw! Stressful SRs give out five times that much AP. Critical SRs give out twenty times as much AP. If you're willing to stake your character's life on a die roll and win, you damn well ought to get paid.
Saving Rolls & Benchmarks
So, now that I've made it clear how I'm going to be handling SRs in general, I should talk about what I mean to do with them specifically.
Strength is pretty easy. You mostly use it to break things. Breaking something that is an inch thick is an SR1 if it's made of soft wood, SR2 if it's made out of reinforced or unusually hard wood, SR3 if it's made out of soft metal, SR4 if it's made out of stone, and SR5 if it's made out of hard metal. For each doubling of thickness, add one to the SR level.
So, kicking down a soft, thin wooden door is an SR1, and a normal person can do it if they don't roll badly. Kicking down a two inch thick door of good aged oak is an SR3, and requires a moderate roll from someone stronger than average. Punching through an inch-thick steel plate takes an SR5, and can only be done by someone who either rolls extremely well or is verging into superhuman territory.
Constitution is really a stat that you use to resist things more than you use to do things. Constitution should be useful when a character wants to exert effort over a long period of time, or attempt something that most people couldn't survive or tolerate. So, let me throw out a few sample SRs:
A PC who is underwater and trying not to drown needs to roll an SR of a level equal to the number of minutes they have not been able to breathe. This only applies if they are doing something stressful, like trying to struggle free of a bear-trap that will not let them reach the surface.
An SR1 allows a character to take a day-long hike. An SR2 allows a character to finish a marathon without giving up, provided they aren't carrying adventuring gear. An SR3 allows a character to finish a marathon in an amount of time that is not embarrassing. An SR4 allows them to turn in a respectable time, or a non-embarrassing one while carrying a light load. An SR5 allows them to win or at least take a top-ranked place in a marathon if competing against only normal humans. An SR6 allows a character to undergo a forced march for days on end, an SR7 allows them to do so and be battle-ready as soon as they stop.
Dexterity is one of those things that should be pretty good. As such, characters with a high Dexterity should feel free to use it to pick people's pockets, throw small items with deadly accuracy, etc. However, I want to give it at least one specific use, as well.
Catching Missiles: It is an SR3 to catch or deflect a hurled weapon such as a spear, dagger, or hand axe. It is an SR4 to do the same to an arrow or a spear thrown with a spear-thrower, and an SR5 to do the same to a sling bullet or crossbow bolt. You can wait to see whether the shot hits or not, but can't wait for the damage roll. If you succeed on the roll, then that specific missile does not hit, and you can continue on with your round. If you fail on the roll, then you take the damage and you cannot act for the rest of the round. This means that it's a great tactic for spellcasters, because magical spells are resolved before missile fire. You can cast your spell, and then try to knock aside any arrows coming at you. If two archers both want to fire at each other and also attempt to deflect the other's arrow, then the one with higher dex chooses whose shot is resolved first. Typically, he will want to fire his own arrow first, so that if the other party attempts to parry it and fails they will be unable to return fire. It's a riskier tactic for melee fighters. Even if their dexterity is very high, they would lose their action if they fumbled the roll.
English: A character can, before rolling, put some "English" on their missile. This adds to the SR level of the shot and any attempt to catch or parry it. A character, firing a bow, whose shot would normally be SR2, for example, can put two points of English on the arrow, and then must roll against an SR4. The amount of English on a missile also adds to the difficulty of catching or parrying it, so the target would need an SR6 to attempt catching that one.
The Bullseye: A character can, with an initial SR of suitable difficulty, use any solid object as a hurled weapon that does 0 points of damage. They must commit to the attack before rolling. For example a character who is in prison and stripped of all weapons might nonetheless trick his jailors into a game of poker for a piece of information that he has and they desire. So armed, a playing card might require an SR4. Our character has a highly notable Dexterity Score of 50, and he chooses to make the attack. He hurls the card at the enemy. He doesn't roll a fumble, and so the card will do damage. It has zero base damage, but with a dexterity of fifty his adds are enough to kill a normal man from clear across the room...
There's going to be a lot of stuff here, because Speed is going to generally cover "mobility" in these rules, and that's a big topic.
Breaking Falls: A character can fall five feet without taking damage, and after that they take 1d6 damage for each five feet of distance. Armor does not protect against this, but a PC's level bonus does, and the extra bonus from magical armor would as well.
A PC who falls from a height can attempt an SR to break the fall. They must choose the level of SR they will attempt before the damage dice are rolled. For each level of the SR, if they succeed, they negate 1d6 worth of damage. The SR must be rolled at a +1 level penalty if they were pushed or otherwise did not voluntarily jump from the height. So, a PC who wants to jump off of a ten foot wall rather than simply lowering themselves down can take no damage if they succeed at an L1SR on Speed. If they were knocked off involuntarily, it is an SR2 to avoid that die of damage.
Jumping: Under non-stressful circumstances, a character can jump across a distance equal to their speed in feet, or half that without a running start. They can jump to a height of one foot for every five full points of Speed.
To jump under stressful circumstances, such as being chased by monsters, determine what Speed score would allow you to make such a jump automatically under non-stressful circumstances. Round up from there to the nearest 5, to get an SR difficulty. Add one to that SR level. That is the SR required to make a jump under a stressful circumstance. Example: A character needs to make a thirteen foot leap with a running start (he was already running from the goblins when he came to the chasm!) Rounding that up to the nearest five gives a result of fifteen. That is a level 1 SR. Add one to the level. That is a level 2 SR. So, a L2SR against Speed is required to jump a thirteen foot chasm when being chased by Goblins.
Example 2: Another character is being chased through the street by werewolves. He is coming to a dead end in an alleyway, and the wall is ten feet high! That would require a speed of Fifty to clear. An SR that you need to roll a Fifty to beat is an SR8. Adding +1 penalty level is an SR of 9. That character is probably doomed, but if he makes it he is going to get a lot of AP. However, if he does succeed, he won't have to use his movement allowance or scramble on the surface! He'll just clear that ten-foot obstacle as part of his normal move. And if he has a Speed high enough to jump that wall, he might be able to outrun the werewolves anyway...
Surfaces and Scrambling: Climbing a surface in a slow and measured way is probably a Strength or Constitution SR, or something the PCs simply accomplish automatically in a totally unstressful environment. However, if you need to get up a surface immediately, then you can try to Scramble up the surface.
A character who wants to scale a vertical surface instead of making their normal movement in a round has to pick how far they want to climb. The SR level is 1 for every five foot increment of distance. The SR is 1 level higher if the wall is made out of glass or some other sheer substance that can't reasonably be climbed. If they character doesn't reach the top or another good landing spot with their Scramble, then they probably need to make a Strength check to hold on! Example: A character can scramble up a 25-foot rock wall with nice handholds with an SR5. If it's made of glass and he has to just run up it, it's an SR6. If there isn't a place to stand or hold on once he gets up there, he's going to have to talk the GM into letting him cling onto glass, or else try to break the resulting fall...
Okay, that's all the physical stats. In my next post few posts, I'll start talking more about what you can do with the mental stats, Talents, and Spellcasting.